Vegan Bolognese is an easy plant-based adaptation of a classic Italian meat-based pasta dish. Instead of mushrooms or lentils, this version features walnuts in a rich and hearty sauce. And unlike many traditional pasta recipes, it's ready to enjoy in only 30 minutes!
First things first, this is not an authentic Bolognese. Rather it's a quick-cooking vegan version of an Italian-American pasta with meat sauce.
One of my favorite plant-based pasta recipes, it features homemade vegan walnut meat crumbles made in minutes in a food processor. They give the thick sauce a deep and savory flavor without the need for simmering it for hours.
Toss it with your favorite pasta shape such as fettucine, rigatoni, or penne for a comforting meal any night of the week. Or use the sauce to make vegan pasta casserole, lasagna, or baked ziti.
Why you'll love this recipe
- It's a family-favorite, hearty dish.
- It's a delicious alternative to other vegan bolognese recipes calling for mushrooms and lentils.
- It's ready to eat in 30 minutes.
Raw walnuts: Look for bags of halves and pieces which tend to be less expensive than the whole ones.
Tamari: If unavailable, you can use soy sauce, as long as you aren't gluten-free.
Pasta: This recipe can be made with any shape and variety of pasta including gluten-free. I prefer to use wider shapes like fettucine or penne which tend to hold up better with thicker sauces.
Spices: I like to purchase dried herbs and spices from The Spice House. Their flatpacks always ship for free, and you can store them as is or transfer them to glass jars as shown in the above photo. Use code VEGGIES10 to get $10 off purchases of $35 or more.
Substitutions and variations
- For a spicy version, stir in crushed red pepper flakes.
- For a lower sodium version, use low-sodium tamari and/or use half the amount.
- If the sauce tastes too sour from the tomatoes, add a splash of balsamic vinegar.
- For extra umami flavor, stir in a tablespoon or two of tomato paste.
- For serving, sprinkle fresh basil or parsley on top and offer vegan parmesan cheese at the table.
For the complete list of ingredients with measurements plus recipe instructions, please see the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
- Prepare the walnut meat crumbles by adding the raw walnuts, tamari, garlic powder, onion powder, and smoked paprika to the bowl of a food processor.
- Process, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary, until the mixture has the texture of ground meat. Be careful to not overprocess. Set the crumbles aside.
- Saute the onions until soft and slightly translucent.
- Add the celery, carrots, and garlic, and continue to saute until soft.
- Add the walnut meat, crushed tomatoes, and Italian seasoning to the skillet.
- Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thick and heated through.
- Cook the pasta al dente according to the package directions, then add it to the skillet with the sauce and toss well to combine.
- Garnish with fresh parsley, if desired, and serve.
While a bowl of vegan bolognese pasta is filling on its own, it's wonderful enjoyed with a salad or vegetable side dish. These are some of my favorites:
- Marinated Artichoke Hearts Salad
- Sourdough Panzanella Bread Salad
- Mediterranean Green Beans and Tomatoes
- Mustard Roasted Cauliflower
- Mediterranean Tomato and Zucchini Saute
Store leftover pasta in an airtight container for up to 3 days. For best results, do not freeze. Thoroughly reheat in a microwave-safe container or on the stove in a skillet.
In Bologna, Italy, authentic bolognese is served with fresh tagliatelle. Sometimes other long flat pasta shapes, such as pappardelle or fettuccine, and tube shapes, such as rigatoni and penne are substituted. However, when making this American-style vegan meat sauce at home, you can use spaghetti or whatever pasta shape you prefer.
To aid with digestion, some people prefer to soak raw walnuts in water prior to consumption. If you want to do this, soak the walnuts for at least 30 minutes or soak them overnight in the refrigerator. Then rinse and drain them thoroughly before using them in this recipe.
If you're missing the low-and-slow cooked richness of a traditional bolognese in this vegan bolognese dish, try adding a couple of tablespoons of tomato paste for a deeper savory flavor.
More hearty vegan pasta recipes
And for even more recipes, join the Vegan Mediterranean Diet Recipes Facebook group for support, inspiration, and fun.
If you love this recipe, please give it 5 stars! ★★★★★
Vegan Bolognese with Walnuts
- 2 cups raw walnuts, (whole or halves and pieces)
- 2 Tablespoons tamari, (or substitute soy sauce if not gluten-free)
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 2 teaspoons onion powder
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- ½ cup onion, diced
- ¼ cup celery, diced
- ¼ cup carrots, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 28 ounces crushed tomatoes
- 1 Tablespoon Italian seasoning
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 12-16 ounces pasta, (gluten free, optional. I use Barilla gluten-free fettucine.)
- fresh parsley or basil, for serving (optional)
- Prepare the walnut meat crumbles by placing the walnuts, tamari, garlic powder, onion powder, and smoked paprika in the bowl of a food processor. Process until small crumbles are formed, scraping down the sides of the bowl, as necessary. Do not overprocess. Set aside.
- Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add the olive oil. Saute the onions until soft and slightly translucent.
- Then add the celery, carrots, and garlic, and saute until soft.
- Add the walnut meat crumbles, crushed tomatoes, and Italian seasoning to the skillet and stir to combine.
- Lower the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thick and heated through. Taste and add salt and pepper, to taste.
- Meanwhile, prepare the pasta according to the package directions. Drain and set aside.
- Once the sauce is ready, add the cooked pasta to the skillet and toss well so that the pasta is well coated.
- Garnish with fresh parsley or basil, if desired, and enjoy immediately.
Nutritional information is an estimation only.